Monthly Archives: July 2014

How to make the most of the induction process for new employees

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Sarah Mandeville, recruitment manager at Gekko, gives her tips on what must be done early on to ensure new staff are welcomed and then retained.

The induction process is the first step in the right direction to staff retention. Your recruitment team and hiring managers are likely to have invested much time, effort and cost to ensure a talented individual has been selected to join the company, and it is therefore imperative that the initial welcome and induction is productive to ensure a successful hire.

Each new employee should be treated as an individual, not a number: create a detailed, tailored induction plan and make your new starter feels welcome and part of the team from day one.

Dedicated time should be spent in planning an induction in advance of an individual starting. When planning, involve anyone who may have had a relationship with this person at interview stage, as well as colleagues they will be working with long term.

Identify what needs to be covered, prioritise, and ensure anyone taking part knows what they need to discuss so as not to repeat information. Create an introduction folder or something similar containing any essential documentation they are likely to need, not only in the first few weeks but on an on-going basis.

First impressions count
Yes, this person has accepted an offer to join your company, however mistakes in the early days could prevent them from staying. Go back to the very basics from how to answer the phone and transfer a call, to where to find the toilets and water coolers.

These minor details often get forgotten; make people feel comfortable in the building so they don’t just feel like a visitor. Ensure their desks and equipment have all been set up, and if being re-used are they in good working order and most importantly clean?

Adapt your plan along the way if required
Having spent time with a new employee, you will get to understand their learning styles. After the first couple of days, review the induction to see if any changes need to be made and if so perhaps moretailored to their needs.

Something you may have planned to take three hours may only take half that time if the person picks it up quicker. Likewise they may need to focus more attention on other areas, and therefore you must adapt as necessary.

Prepare existing staff
Inform colleagues (not just the immediate team they are working in) that there is a new starter so they can all make them feel welcome. Give existing employees an introduction to the new team member before they start, helping relationships develop more quickly. Ensure colleagues who are inducting have dedicated the time to do so in their current work schedules and are able give the new starter their undivided attention.

Don’t overwhelm
Aspects of the role or company that are essential for the employee to know may not be necessary to discuss in the first couple of weeks; can it wait until a person is settled? Sitting through presentations with departments they won’t have any involvement in for a few months are not necessary in the initial induction period and may well be forgotten by the time it is relevant.  Reschedule for a later date when the employee is settled.

Allow for reflection time and review
An induction can consist of so much information meaning it can be counterproductive if there is no time to allow the person to take it all in. Allow some time every day for them to review what they have been taught, and inform them of what they can do in any other spare time as and when the opportunity presents itself.

Introduce documents they can revise in this down time, show them where they can look on the intranet or how to find and review case studies etc. At the end of the induction programme invite the employee to review the induction with their line manager. Allow this to be in an informal setting so the employee can feel comfortable in being honest, and so any concerns or plans for action can be addressed from either side.

A new starter satisfied with their first few weeks in the role will lead to a long term employer/employee relationship. This all starts with the induction: it is important that the new recruit does not get lost in the business of our day today roles – give them your full attention and make them a success.

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How London businesses can hang on to their world class workforce

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As someone who runs my own business, there are two bits of research that have caught my eye in the past few weeks. Individually, neither is particularly dramatic, but when combined they represent a real challenge for London businesses.

The first is the latest report from High Fliers confirming that the median starting salary for top graduates has stuck at the same level since 2010. From 2004 until then, it grew roughly in proportion to the growing cost-of-living. Yet owing to the downturn the figure has stagnated four years in a row.

The second stat – which should make some businesses nervous – is that rental prices in London have increased to such an extent that the average London rent (£1,348/month) is now more than twice the average rent in the North East (£520/month). It’s a worrying situation when the brightest young talent are being offered a diminishing quality of life if they choose to work in London.

It only takes a quick check of any jobsite to see that there are some great companies offering competitive salaries for jobs in the North East. It isn’t sustainable for businesses to continue to assume the brightest young grads will keep throwing away so much of their income on London rent, when they could be living the high life away from the capital. Businesses need to give their employees the confidence and security they need to stay.

One of the many reasons some of the brightest workers are attracted to London is because of its innovation and creativity. Yet employers need to ensure they’re applying this innovation and creativity to how they motivate and retain their staff. It’s great to offer pension schemes, life insurance and gym membership as enticements to your staff where many other businesses still don’t.

However, to attract the best workers, businesses need to make it feasible for their employees to remain in London and not lose them to more affordable areas. Living in London is a delicate balance, and there are two main ways that businesses can help their employees

1. Lend employees their rental deposits

Even the cheapest shared accommodation in London can reach £650-700/month, and landlords often demand a deposit of six to eight weeks rent. This means that companies hoping to hire the brightest and best graduates fresh out of university are expecting them to have nearly £1,500 in the bank. Companies should therefore soften the blow of their employees moving to the city by loaning them their deposit, to be repaid over the course of their first two years. There’s little risk to the company, as the amount would be roughly a month’s salary, which can be withheld if anything goes wrong and the employment is terminated. Such an offer would help to entice the best candidates to apply, and demonstrate the value you place in supporting your workforce. Companies who can’t afford to pay all the deposit up front for their employees can still make a loan contribution. With London prices so high, every little helps.

2. Subsidise their ‘me’ time

It isn’t just having somewhere to live that’s so expensive in London, day-to-day living adds up too. With a strong work-hard play-hard ethic, many Londoners need to find the time to relax, or risk burning out. It’s in everyone’s interests for employers to get involved in this. Many firms already subsidise or pay for gym membership. Yet to go one step further, it’s crucial that employees take time out to recover, reset and recharge. Companies who contribute to their employees wellbeing with a leisure allowance – a contribution that might go towards tickets for the theatre, football or a new art exhibition – can reap the rewards of a de-stressed and re-motivated staff whose minds are open to new forms of creativity. Immersing staff into the wealth of cultural activities the greatest city in the world has to offer enriches your workforce and its ideas: that’s the creative spirit that makes London great.

If the cost of living in London continues its rise, there’s no doubt that salary is going to become an increasingly vital criteria for job applicants. Companies who can’t compete with larger companies on salary have to be inventive and stand out with what they can offer employees. There aren’t metrics to gauge the benefits to a company of having motivated staff, but it should be high on the priority list for any business. If businesses can offer prospective employees the benefits of London life without the drawbacks, London should retain and continue to attract its world class talent.


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How to give the perfect interview – and bag the perfect candidate

londonlovesbusinessSourcing the right people and attracting talent to roles is a major challenge for any recruitment department. Here’s how to do it

Making your opportunity stand out among the thousands out there is vital. And once that CV reaches you – revealing the ‘perfect’ candidate on paper – it’s down to he or she only to deliver at interview, do the research, dress to impress and nail that presentation, right?

Wrong. You should be fully prepared to judge how this individual is right for your team, business and clients – and make the right decision to hire.

1. It’s in the meet and greet

First impressions count. The handshake, the smile and the overall presence – but remember to pay attention to the less obvious details too, what people say about shoes is true!  Candidates are given the chance to prove themselves throughout the time you spend with them, but ultimately it comes down to whether you would put that person in front of your MD, clients and customers presented as they are at their best – the interview.
2. Stop when you’ve seen enough

A short interview isn’t always a bad interview. Interviewers often make the mistake of clock watching, trying to make sure they fill that one hour session. Don’t do it, just stop when you’ve seen enough! Don’t waste your time or theirs if you’ve made the decision and it’s not going to work. And if they demonstrate the skills you’re looking for in a short space of time, be careful not to fill time by asking irrelevant questions and going off track as this could put candidates off.
3. Address the clichés, numbers, hobbies and interests

That opening paragraph on a CV can read like a long list of carefully selected adjectives, while the key achievements sound incredible. Break those words and numbers down: “UK’s top sales professional”, out of how many people? “Grown sales 51% since last quarter”, how exactly has this been done? More specifics please. Hobbies and interests are important to the cultural fit, but remember to explore them further, ensure the candidate hasn’t exaggerated by going into the finer detail.  If they “love playing golf”, what is their handicap? And if they haven’t put any interests down, ask. You’ll appeal on a more personal level that way, which is particularly important when remembering the below…
4. You are there to impress too

Don’t let your hiring manager run to an interview, grabbing a CV off the printer on the way, not briefed by the person who selected the candidate to interview. You need to sell not only the company, role and work culture, but also sell yourself as their line manager or direct report. Inform them of your background and let them know what they can learn from you personally. What can you offer them that other employers can’t? Tell them about the workplace culture and practices whether – it be complementary breakfast, flexi time, monthly company days out or free parking.  Share, you’ll be surprised what motivates people when it comes down to deciding what opportunity is best for them to take.
5. Does your interviewer know what they are doing?

When you’ve recruited a new manager or promoted within, training on interview skills are often forgotten. It may not be a priority at the time, but within days of requesting to recruit, your hiring manager could be sitting across the table from a potential future employee with no idea where to start. Introduce recruitment training sessions as an ongoing programme – don’t lose that great hire through a poor interview and lack of preparation on your part.


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The Brands Losing Their Cool Factor for the Sake of Profit


viv bannerRecently Apple has been widely scrutinised in the media, with many pundits accusing the tech giant of having lost its ‘cool factor,’ and hailing its recent acquisition of Beats as an attempt by the brand to get its mojo back. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a cheap headlining trick that the media knows will grab attention. Sitting on top of Interbrand’s list of the world’s most valuable brands, Apple has managed to maintain its position as an aspirational brand without ever losing its cool factor. The brand is, and will continue to be cool; what other brand or retailer would inspire consumers to queue overnight in their masses for the launch of a new product? The Beats acquisition is a good fit for Apple; the two brands complement each other and, with Apple’s assistance, Beats will also continue to reign supreme.

However, for some brands the pursuit of global domination can come at a major cost:  The loss of their cool factor and aspirational quality. It’s interesting to note how far some brands will go to increase their profits at the expense of this intangible asset and how many have forfeited their coolness in the name of commercial success.

Take for example Innocent which started out as a small ethical start-up with an innovative idea:  Get your five a day in a tasty bottled smoothie. For years, the founders waxed lyrical about the importance of getting natural, healthy foods to more people; however, as soon as a conglomerate came along with an attractive offer, they were happy to sell out in a highly-publicised deal worth an estimated £100 million. The brand charged handsomely for what consumers essentially viewed as a fashionable and strangely aspirational fruit juice. Innocent’s association with Coca-Cola, and the subsequent dilution of its signature entrepreneurial spirit, has dented the brand’s cool reputation. The acquisition swiftly led to consumer concerns about the effect of Coca-Cola’s involvement in the business and the impact it would have on the brand’s values and personality. All of this has resulted in a dilution of brand identity and raised questions about the ethical values of Innocent. The launch of a new range of smoothies from Innocent coincidently will now showcase the effect the products have on drinkers rather than just highlighting their ingredients. However, what Innocent has perhaps missed is that consumers now choose alternate, less expensive fruit-based drinks in a declining market. The take-home smoothie sector decreased in value by 2.7 per cent year on year in 2012 and it has also suffered the loss of something less tangible:  It’s cool factor.

On another note, what we wear to some people is an extension of their personality and, in the case of the luxury market, fulfills aspiration. A brand currently losing in the cool stakes of the fashion sector is American footwear brand New Balance. Once worn almost exclusively by hipsters in Shoreditch and Bushwick alike, the appeal of New Balance has now expanded to a huge new mass market audience, most of whom would never previously have considered wearing the brand. New Balance trainers are no longer regarded as a trendy item and, with every celebrity from Heidi Klum to Rihanna spotted wearing them, the brand’s signature strapline, ‘Endorsed by No One’ is certainly no longer a reflection of reality. In fact, it was reported earlier this year that New Balance is now the second most popular footwear brand on, just behind Nike. This loss of exclusivity only serves to switch off millennials who bought the brand for niche values. While New Balance couldn’t control the rapid increase in its appeal to a much larger audience, by entering, the brand has effectively lost its niche cool factor and joins the likes of Adidas and Puma in the mainstream fashion trainers category.

Finally, who is Vivienne Westwood’s customer? Westwood, once regarded as the enfant terrible of the fashion industry, managed to create something truly unique that didn’t appeal to a mainstream audience. Westwood is rightly recognised as a bastion of fashion and a UK icon. However, by over-licensing her products, her famous orb logo is now visible on garments throughout the country and has, as a result, lost some of its uniqueness. Furthermore, her new partnership with Virgin Atlantic which sees the Westwood brand designing the airline’s new uniform, should also be called into question. How can a luxury brand retain its appeal when your first class passengers, who may aspire to wearing Westwood, are wearing the same biased cut skirt as the air hostess serving them? While some brand partnerships, like that of Apple and Beats, seem to naturally complement one another, it’s fair to say that Vivienne Westwood and Virgin Atlantic is a stranger partnership. When you consider Westwood’s stance on the environment and her work as an ambassador for Greenpeace, is Virgin Atlantic really a good fit?

When approaching a new partnership or considering a different strategic direction, it’s important to take into account the impact it will have on your brand and its reputation. Follow Apple’s lead and strive for global domination, but make sure to stay true to the values that made your brand cool or aspirational in the first place and never forget the demographic who made you great. Yes, generations choose different brands as we evolve through life; however, a brand’s target demographic, whilst perhaps getting richer, never radically changes, but rather evolves.


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A view from Google Glass base camp

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After much speculation and hype, Google Glass has finally landed in the UK. Many have asked why, citing that it’s pointless and you won’t buy it. You will.

The ‘base camp’ event was held on the 27 and 28 June by Google in Kings Cross. I was reliably informed it was staffed by not only event staff but also Google employees working on Glass; which probably explained hearing “welcome to the future” one too many times. For those less gregarious amongst us, it was perhaps a bit intimidating, especially when you get to the photo demo and are asked to strike four poses wearing the Glass while they take photos. Many seemed keen, I wasn’t.

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Following a brief tutorial wearing the new enhanced Glass with a flexible titanium frame, you get to learn the gestures whilst practicing not to squint, a natural reaction to something so alien but not necessary. Despite this, I couldn’t imagine wearing the Glass for a prolonged period.

Music, translation, star gazing were all on demo as were the different styles on display, which if I’m honest, whichever way you cut it, don’t look like normal glasses. I have no doubt however that these will change and get smaller, stylish and almost invisible like contact lenses.

What’s stunning about the device is its ease of use, clarity of vision, speed and endless possibilities. We’ve all read the scaremongering articles regarding the security or privacy aspects but putting that aside, this really is cutting edge technology that will change lives. Look at a sign in Italian and see it in English, look up at the sky and see the solar system geographically correct. I’m guessing we only experienced a minutia of what this product can really do but what we were allowed to try was impressive.

So will people buy and wear it? Are Brits going to shun this innovation as many have said? In my opinion, no, and avoiding any clichés, it is the future which will set the tech industry alive and move it to the next level.  This is a new category that changes everything, it’s the next step beyond your smartphone. Google the unassuming innovator has done it again.

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